Deal announced to eliminate tolls in Portsmouth
The commonwealth will use $78 million previously budgeted for a now-cancelled highway project to buy out tolls in Portsmouth.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Friday announced an agreement that he said ensures no tolls will be collected on the Martin Luther King (MLK) Freeway extension project. Money for the tolls had previoiusly been set aside for now-canceled Route 460 improvements in Southeast Virginia..
The governor’s office said the agreement also includes provisions designed to ease the burden of tolls connected to Midtown and Downtown tunnels projects. These provisions would aid residents who struggle to pay tolls because of financial or medical problems or other circumstances, officials said.
The MLK extension, a new Midtown Tunnel now under construction, and the rehabilitation of the Midtown and Downtown tunnels are collectively known as the Elizabeth River Tunnels project.
In a statement, McAuliffe said the Elizabeth River Tunnels project was necessary to reduce congestion, increase safety and improve the economy, but is “a bad deal reached under the prior administration.”
“We have worked with our private-sector partner to ensure there will be no tolls on the MLK extension. Imposing a toll to finance the improvements would have placed an unfair burden on the citizens of Portsmouth,” he said. “It is not good policy for Portsmouth to bear the cost of this project when it is also sharing the tolling burden with other motorists in the region who travel the Midtown and Downtown tunnels.”
In connecttion with the Midtown and Downtown tunnels, Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said the project contractor, Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC), has agreed to pay $500,000 a year for 10 years to help offset the cost of tolls to those users who are the most financially stressed.
“I have directed Deputy Secretary of Transportation Grindly Johnson to lead this effort and work with the local community to ensure these monies are invested in the most beneficial way to ease the financial burden of tolls on those residents who need the help the most,” Layne said in a statement.
The cost for toll violations will be capped. The highest amount that ERC can charge for violations regarding unpaid tolls, fees and court costs cannot exceed $2,200.